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Who are the most influential players in NBA history?
Dec 14, 2021, 4:20:00 AM

Who are the most influential players in NBA history?

The NBA is filled with so many players who have made a significant impact. Basketball has changed over the years but there are still some players who have transcended the sport’s team-centric culture. Let’s talk about the most influential players in NBA history.

The NBA is improving every year because players are always thriving in their games. They are motivated to keep playing at a high level so they can win championships and live up to expectations. Over the years, some players have become stars but they have also transcended the star status.

Players have become tastemakers and trendsetters for the rest of the NBA. In some cases, they fundamentally changed how the sport is played. These players are not just talented stars but they also shaped the landscape of basketball culture.

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Michael Jordan

The Chicago Bulls was the biggest sports team of the 1990s. They were even bigger than the football teams in Europe. This can be largely attributed to Michael Jordan’s impact on the sports world. He was not only a basketball superstar but he was also a cultural icon. He was the face of a brand that ended up becoming the world’s most popular shoe line.

On the court, he was amazing. He was the best scorer in basketball as he can score from everywhere. Of course, he struggled to shoot from beyond the arc but at the time, the three-point shot was not as popular. However, when needed, MJ could stroke it from beyond the arc but he chose to shoot the more comfortable shots.

MJ was primarily known as an elite athlete who was making circus layups and throwing down monstrous dunks. As his career progressed, he realized that his athleticism would slightly fade which is why he focused on refining his jump shot. While he was not elite from three, his mid-range jump shots were accurate. He can hit a variety of shots including pull-ups, fadeaways, and turn-around fall-aways.

Due to his efforts on the court, MJ became famous around the world as the standard of high-level basketball. It was not a surprise that it happened because MJ was a six-time champion during his time in the NBA. He was unbeaten in the NBA Finals as he won all six times he got to the biggest stage.

MJ is widely considered the greatest basketball player of all time. While there are some detractors, the opinion is shared by many fans, pundits, and even former players. MJ was transcendent because he inspired so many people to play sports. Basketball is usually the biggest sport he has an impact on but football and baseball players also credit Jordan for inspiring them to perform.

In terms of overall influence, MJ is probably the biggest star of all time. He had an impact on players’ shoes, how they perform, and their focus on winning. Almost every NBA player will credit MJ for helping them with their approach as he embodied the winning mindset during his career.

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Allen Iverson

In 1996, the Philadelphia 76ers picked Allen Iverson who is a small guard from Georgetown University. While he was the first overall pick, sceptical fans and pundits were doubting his impact on the team. AI proved them all wrong in just his rookie season as he proved that size does not matter.

AI made a career out of carving the defence and scoring in the pain with floaters and layups. He was an elite scorer as he won the scoring title four times. Remember, he was doing this at six feet which is an extremely small height in the NBA. AI was rail-thin compared to other players but he was always brave enough to challenge the big men and more often than not, he won.

He managed to lead the Sixers to an NBA Finals berth in 2001 but they could only muster up one win against the mighty Los Angeles Lakers. AI proved that he was one of the best players in the world at the time and that continued for a long while.

AI was not only an awesome basketball player because he was one of the most influential players outside of the court. He was outspoken which meant that you can always expect truth when AI talked. His smaller stature meant so much to the people outside of the NBA because they can relate to AI who was just normally sized for an average American.

AI was also a strong figure in the NBA’s fashion as he brought the hip-hop style to the league. This forced NBA commissioner David Stern to enforce a dress code but AI made an impact on other parts of fashion. His arm sleeve became famous enough for the rest of the basketball world to follow suit.

His cornrows were iconic during his Sixers days which has still affected the modern NBA since because players are still rocking similar hair to their idol.

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Stephen Curry

If you look at how modern basketball is played, it is more reliant on three-pointers. This is largely due to Stephen Curry’s impact. He is the most influential player of the modern era because he is considered the premier three-point shooter of all time. It’s not a surprise given the way he plays.

For the Golden State Warriors, Steph has been the best player in franchise history. He was the focal point of the Dubs’ dynasty in the mid-2010s. He is not only influential to the youth because he relies on the threes but his willingness to move off the ball has also made young players into better teammates as they focus on helping the offence flow better.

The rest of the NBA had to follow Steph’s reliance on threes. He is the best shooter of all time and every team is looking for their own sniper. The NBA is reliant on three-point shooting as the main weapon on offence and that will always be linked to Steph’s legacy as the league’s best-ever shooter.

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Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson

Big point guards have become a norm in the modern era. Back in the 1980s, Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson was a trendsetter. The Los Angeles Lakers guard was not only a large point guard but he also became one of the best players in the league. He was one of two players who deserve credit for ushering in the NBA’s boom period.

Alongside Larry Bird, Magic led the NBA’s entry into the mainstream. They were not seen as the biggest sports league in the United States but they managed to eclipse the likes of baseball and football during that era as Magic and Bird led their respective teams to title glory.

When you look at the modern NBA, you can see players like Ben Simmons, Scottie Barnes, and Nikola Jokić serving as their team’s primary ball-handlers. That is Magic’s influence given that these players should traditionally be big men but Magic proved that size should not play a factor in being a team’s primary playmaker.

Magic is also one of the league’s best-ever personalities. He led the ‘Showtime’ Lakers which was centred on fast-breaks and Magic’s pinpoint passes. He was a flashy player who loved to cater to the crowd. He was important to how the game changed from set plays every time to a more free-flowing offence that relied on off-ball movement and flashy passes.

Magic is one of the most important players in the sport’s history because the 1980s was the biggest growth period for the NBA. If he wasn’t there, the NBA would not have been as big as it is in the modern era. Back in the day, basketball was mostly played in the United States but the 80s was a boom period as the NBA reached a global peak. Magic deserves credit for that era of exponential growth.

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Julius Erving

Before MJ, Julius Erving was known as the most athletic player in the league. Nicknamed ‘The Doctor’, Erving was a tremendous player who could do everything. He was an icon in the 1970s and early 80s to so many youngsters. MJ was one of those players as he cites Dr. J as one of the biggest influences in his game.

He was one of the most natural players of all time as he could move around the court and he had the inborn ability to make basketball look easy. He used his athleticism well and countless basketball players have tried emulating him over the years.

He was the prototype for the lanky yet athletic player. In the modern era, you can see players like Zach LaVine, Ja Morant, and Anthony Edwards emerging as stars. The NBA is filled with athletic wings nowadays but the prototype remains supreme. Dr. J is an all-time great because of how smooth he played basketball and what this meant to the youngsters who idolized him growing up.

These are just some of the most influential players in NBA history. Honourable mentions like Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar all deserve to also be listed. That is proof of how the NBA has grown due to influential stars.

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Words: Cholo Martin

Image: PA